(Just before we start — some info for those interested in what’s going on here. I have reinstalled the PC game Championship Manager 2001/02, considered by many fans of the Champ/Football Manager series to be the definitive edition, and returned to try to win the Premier League with Rushden & Diamonds, signing all the legends we know and love along the way. It’s a whimsical football/gaming/nostalgia series for fans of late 90s football, management gaming sims, and tiny towns with achy-breaky local bus services.
Further info about my game settings for those who feel like joining in with the nostalgia: I have simply done a clean install of the game with no patches or data updates. I know, I know, the official patch is good, but I prefer the vanilla game. All leagues have been selected as background, with England playable down to the Conference. I’ve also gone max database size to get as many players as possible.)
July 14, 2001. A day no doubt etched into the memories of everyone currently on the wrong side of 30. Let me take you there: Manchester United have just broken the British transfer record to sign Juan Sebastián Verón. Turn by Feeder is blaring out of every radio in a 12-mile radius. George W. Bush is setting new lows as one of the worst US Presidents of all time. How lucky we were.
However, most notably of all, the tiny town of Irthlingborough in Northamptonshire is about to undergo a footballing revolution. Local side Rushden and Diamonds FC — owned and funded by millionaire Doc Martens president Max Griggs — have just been promoted to the Football League for the first time. Their £6m transfer kitty is enormous for a team in Division 3, but as a recently promoted side, their only expectations are to avoid relegation. It would be a golden start for any manager, let alone a plucky, untested one with little consideration for finances and a great knowledge of Scandinavian wonderkids. I humbly accept the job.
I arrive at the club gates with a single purpose: to use my knowledge of the 01/02 transfer market, and the resources at my disposal at Nene Park, to take Rushden and Diamonds to the…